Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Flexbuilder 3 Beta 3 upgrade issues

Yesterday I downloaded and installed the new beta of Flexbuilder 3 and I ran into a couple of problems. Now before anyone starts to think that this is a Flexbuilder 3 Beta 3 complaint, it isn’t. The problems I had were easily fixed by following the instructions in the release notes. For anyone interested, the problems I had were caused by reusing a workspace from Beta 2 in Beta 3. As the release notes indicate, you need to force Flexbuilder to reinitialize the workspace. The instructions are clearly specified.

I like many users don’t like to “read the manual” so I immediately went in search of an answer on the web. So, I figured I would save someone the trouble by posting specifically about it.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Worst UI Ever? - Links

First of all, let me say that I love Ebay. How else would I be able to sell my extra Hannah Montana tickets? However, occassionally I find myself asking "huh?" Take this list of links for example:

What do you think the difference between Seller's Guide, Seller Central and Seller Tools is? I clicked on each of them looking for information about the Buy it Now option. I couldn't find any information on any of the resulting pages easily. Eventually I found my way back to the Seller's Guide, which is apparently the code name for Seller's Help, and found it by searching. The first time I was on the Seller's Guide page, I completely overlooked the search box since I had just done a search on the previous screen in the main search box which apparently only searches items. When searching for Buy it Now, I received, as you might expect, over 2000 products.

Here's the problem. The links all sound like the same thing based on their names. They could be slightly improved by adding tooltips assuming it is possible to articulate the difference in 3 to 10 words. To add to the problem, even after visiting those pages, I am still not sure what the difference between Seller Central and Seller Tools is.

The bottom line is that when you decide to add one more link to a menu, it is important to make sure it makes sense in the context off all the other links. All by themselves, each would make perfect sense, but when put together the problem becomes apparent.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Required reading for RIA designers and product owners

With the holiday season usually comes less time and more work. Funny how that works. In the little spare time I have left, I stumbled upon what I think is a must read for anyone working on RIAs. I found Magic Ink - Information Software and the Graphical Interface to be full of useful information for both designers and product owners. One of the biggest challenges for UI designers, especially living in the Agile world, is convincing the rest of the team that slowing down and really "designing" the interface is valuable and in fact necessary for success.

The author makes numerous references to the work of Edward Tufte but also extends some of the concepts of Tufte by illustrating how and why the techniques he suggests can work in an interactive medium such as RIAs.

While the RIA technology described is not Flex or Silverlight, I think those two technologies are likely to be the most common platform for RIA development. So while reading Magic Ink, don't get hung up on the fact that the applications mentioned are HTML or desktop widgets. The concepts apply to any and all RIA platforms.